At a glance
The German Shepherd is one of the most well-known dog breeds in the world. It is not only a popular family pet, but their brilliance and almost-human sensibilities have made them known for years as an able assistant in a wide array of work situations.
- Names – Alsatian, Deutscher Schaferhund, Berger Allemand, Deutscher Schäferhund, GSD, Schäferhund, Police Dog
- Group – AKC: Herding Group; KC: Pastoral
- Size – large
- Life expectancy – average of 12; range of 7 to 13 years
- Cost of ownership – low
- Ease of ownership – medium
- Aggressive tendency – high
- Amount of Exercise – high
- Amount of Grooming – medium
- Ease of Training – high
- Obedience level – high
- Suitable for Children – medium
- Amount of Care Required – medium
- Susceptibility to Health Problems – medium
German Shepherd dogs are among the most easily identified dogs in the world. Their bearing shows a breed that is compact, and while noble and aloof, is also very aware and alert to his surroundings. They are well balanced in both their forequarters and hindquarters. They are substantially built and appear less square-like with smoother curves. Proportionally, their length exceeds their height. Their beautiful outer coat is comprised of rough and flat hair with a thick undercoat. Their long front legs quickly cover a lot of ground, and when watching the dog on the move, it is easy to see that he is indeed a multi-purpose canine.
- Bitch: 77 lbs to 85 lbs (35-40kg.)
- Dog: 77 lbs to 85 lbs (35-40kg.)
- Bitch: 55cm to 60cm (22 – 24 inches)
- Dog: 60cm to 65cm (24 – 26 inches)
- Color – most colors like black and tan, black and cream, black and silver, solid black and sable – except white – are permissible.
- Coat – double-coated; outer coat is harsh, straight, and thick and under coat is dense and soft; there are three coat varieties: rough coat, long hair and long rough coat
- Shedding – high
- Allergies – low
- Causes Allergies – medium
The German Shepherd breed possesses superior intelligence. Not only are they highly adaptable, energetic and strong, but they are also responsible, somewhat stubborn and inquisitive. This breed combines a handsome look with great stamina and endurance.
- Separation Anxiety – medium
- Barking tendency – high
- Aggressive tendency – high
- Compatibility with other animals – low
- Suitable for children – medium
- Watchdog suitability – high
German Shepherds are highly active and their key features are fearlessness, a willingness to learn and an eagerness to be useful. Shepherds are loyal, sometimes to the extent of being a one-person companion dog, often bonding with their trainer. GSDs that lack proper socialization tend to be over-protective of their family and territory and their aggressive instinct is heightened. They have an aloof personality and are inclined to be reserved towards strangers.
Their intelligence makes them easy to train. They can be highly obedient and focused but can also be willful if they do not respect their teacher as the leader. That said, a trained Shepherd is a level-headed and calm dog that can be relied upon in every situation.
Once correctly trained and bonded to an owner, a German Shepherd dog is a great companion dog and can be a wonderful family pet. They are very good with children and are even social with other pets in the home. This canine is very social and can experience separation anxiety if left alone too frequently. Therefore, they should be in the company of a few family companions on a regular basis.
In sum, this dog’s intelligence, sense of smell and work ethic make him suited to nearly any task of any occupation he is selected for.
A Shepherd is a highly intelligent breed and requires a great deal of mental stimulation to stay in top form. A GSD will appreciate and enjoy obedience classes. This dog is eager to learn and very responsive to training, especially voice commands given with the appropriate intonation. It is best to work with reward-method training; whipping a dog into submission or into shape will simply make the dog deteriorate. The GSD can progress from basic obedience to the level of agility, tracking, rescue work or personal protection work, all of which he is perfectly suited for. Additionally, this dog will likely housetrain very quickly, particularly if crate-trained.
- Obedience – high
- Exercise required
Young puppies should be exercised with prudence to prevent long-term damage to joints that have not yet developed. Adult German Shepherd Dogs love strenuous activity, especially when activities involve training of some kind, as he is very smart and keen on good challenges.
- Energy – high
- Amount required – a total of 30 minutes to 1 hour a day of activities (I.E. ball chasing, Frisbee catching, obedience training, participation in a canine playgroup or just taking long walks/jogs)
GSDs require frequent grooming including bathing, brushing (coat and teeth), administering monthly heartworm and flea treatments and yearly visits to the vet. The dog will need a daily brushing when possible to help control shedding. It is particularly important to brush daily during their prime shedding seasons, which occurs twice a year when the undercoat comes out. Bathing does not have to occur frequently, a few times a year should be sufficient. Nail trimming is as essential as brushing the teeth of the dog. Lastly, this dog will be much more content indoors with his family, since this breed prefers to be with their pack.
An Adult Shepherd is capable of eating approximately 40 pounds of dry dog food per month, which may vary according to the metabolism of each individual animal and their activity level. Since dogs are carnivores when in the wild, it is essential that meat protein is a regular part of the dogs’ diet.
Although an owner may feed their dog high quality food, they will still need to check out the content of the food closely. An animal with average activity should have about 26% protein and 15-18% fat. Furthermore, some kind of meat should be the first and main ingredient, not a grain product. Feed stores must not be skipped when looking for a good place to buy dog food. Another healthy alternative is dry food, which reduces the chance of bloat.
A dog can be given its main portion of food in the afternoon after a walk. For a German Shepherd that has a lifestyle of medium intensity, 1 cup of food in the morning followed by 3 cups in the evening should be enough. The weight level of the dog must still be watched, since there is always the risk of obesity. Daily food quantity should be adjusted based on the energy and activity level of your pet.
The shepherd is a “double-coated” breed. Under normal conditions, regular brushing and infrequent baths (once every 2-3 months) are sufficient. Diet is a prime element which affects coat condition, so feeding quality foods can mean reducing or preventing skin problems.
The shepherd can easily be fully brushed in 10 minutes or less, provided it is brushed 3-4 times per week. Time and frequency will vary according to coat length and condition. Use a wire “slicker” brush available at most pet stores, or coat grooming rake, and brush with the grain of the coat. In fact, scheduled brushing and handling will help the shepherd to be patient and learn to enjoy these sessions.
During flea season it is sometimes necessary to bathe more often, which may mean more than once a month. However, usually frequent baths are only required if a canine has fleas, otherwise, constant bathing can strip the coat of its natural oils and lead to problems.
- Ease of grooming – high
- Amount of grooming – medium
Both German and American lines of GSDs are well loved; however, as to which line deserves more of the discerning breeder’s time is up to the would-be owner’s taste, need and expectations.
Supporters of the American lines may allege that all German dogs are brutally aggressive, while some lovers of German lines would insist that dogs from the opposite camp are unsound, stupid, and cowardly. That said, these claims are simply unfounded. The most important thing is to locate a good breeder that does not want to breed for “rare” but impermissible traits and features, whom you trust and whose breeding stock (both the chosen sire and dam) you think can deliver the closest characteristics you want in a GSD.
A GSD breeder will want to focus on a certain trait or feature to meet the goal of his or her breeding program. For instance, some will aim to breed a safe family pet (which make sub-par sports dogs); others will choose to breed the best sport Schutzhund dog (which make poor family and for-kids dogs). Those who wish to acquire a GSD will want to look into what trait or feature the potential dog in question was bred towards.
- Litter size – average of 9; range of 5 to 12
- Puppy cost – average of $900; range $740 – $1,100
Reckless breeding without orderly goals has led to some health problems, one of the most common being Hip Dysplasia. Panosteitis is a bone disease more prevalent among males than females and it affects fast growing, large breeds. Bloat is another issues but it can be avoided simply through careful feeding and exercise times. Cutaneous vasculopathy affects GSD puppies causing crusty ears, tail and swollen, cracked pads. Congenital heart problems have also been found in German Shepherd Dogs.
- Life expectancy – average of 12 years; range of 7 to 13 years
- Susceptibility to illness – medium
- Common health problems – Degenerative Myelopathy, Epilepsy, Gastric Dilatation Volvulous, Torsion/Bloat, Hip and/or Elbow Dysplasia, Panosteitis, Pancreatic Enzyme Insufficiency – Malabsorption, Pannus, Perianal Fistulas, Thyroid Disorders, Von Willebrand’s Disease
While the GSD is a total pleasure to own when well-trained, he does shed and his personality can be unstable if he is left in the hands of a novice, unconcerned or uncommitted owner. This is because their intelligence and drive can become excessive and out of control. Aside from necessary training and socialization, a GSD can be kept stimulated and fit when provided with a secure yard. Also, a family member will need to spend 30 minutes to an hour daily playing with and exercising the dog.
With regard to whether the female or the male makes a better companion dog, this is something that only the potential owner can decide. However, some people allege that the males are more “location” protective while females are more “pack” protective. Males are generally inclined to be more territorial (for example, it occurs more when they have just been bred). Thus, training steps need to be consistent to prevent marking from being a problem. If marking is an issue, neutering may not only help alleviate the problem but the procedure greatly reduces the risks of testicular or mammary cancers.
- Living conditions –A GSD will do best when allowed to stay in his master’s living quarters. The dog can adjust to apartment life, provided he obtains his substantial amount of outdoor exercises. He is happiest in a home with a yard.
- Good with Children – Some German Shepherds are excellent and some are dangerously aggressive. Genetics and early socialization are two key factors that influence how a GSD interacts with children.
Starting with local shepherd dogs of various coat varieties from Wurtemberg, Thurginia and Bavaria, Rittmeister Max Emil Friedrich von Stephanitz and other dedicated breeders achieved the goal of a responsive, obedient and handsome German Shepherd by the late 1800s. In April 1899, Captain Max von Stephanitz registered a dog named Horan as the first Deutsche Schäferhunde, or German Shepherd Dog. Until 1915, both long-haired and wire-haired varieties were regularly exhibited. However, the short hair type is the only coat variety acknowledge for show in most countries today.
- County or origin – Germany
- Recognition – CKC, FCI, AKC, UKC, KCGB, CKC, ANKC, NKC, NZKC, APRI, ACR
Did you know…
- Famous owners of German Shepherds include –
- US General H. Norman Schwarzkopf – Orso
- First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy – Clipper
- Singer/Songwriter Amy Grant – Ork
- Actor Jake Gyllenhaal – Atticus
- Singer/Songwriter Shania Twain – Tim
- Vaudeville producer/ newsman Roy Rogers – Bullet
- US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt – Major
- Actor Rudolph Valentino – Prince
- When it comes to show presentation and pictorials, the German Shepherd Dog has a distinctive pose that is unique to his breed. He stands one rear leg under the body and one extended, compared to the conventional “square” stack (parallel front and rear) or extended stacks.
- Among the best-known German Shepherd Dogs which have worked as movie stars is “Rin Tin Tin”, adopted straightway from a deserted German World War II trench.
- The German Shepherd Dog is not the most affectionate breed, preferring to give all of his attention to his owner or main caretaker.
- The GSD is the third most popular dog breed in the U.S.